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Billionaire backer of University of Pennsylvania considers pulling funds

Ronald S. Lauder has become one of the school’s most important donors.

Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, at the Jerusalem Chairman's Conference on Sept. 22, 2013. Photo by Flash90.
Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, at the Jerusalem Chairman's Conference on Sept. 22, 2013. Photo by Flash90.

Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress since 2007, has told the University of Pennsylvania that it must work harder to counter campus antisemitism to continue benefiting from his philanthropy.

He pointed to the recent “Palestine Writes” literary festival the last weekend in September, over the Rosh Hashanah holiday, as a point in case.

“The conference has put a deep stain on Penn’s reputation that will take a long time to repair,” wrote Lauder, referring to the event in a letter to the school’s president, Liz Magill, which CNN acquired. “I have spent the past 40 years of my life fighting antisemitism around the world and I never, in my wildest imagination, thought I would have to fight it at my university, my alma mater and my family’s alma mater.”

Lauder made his request “as clear as I can,” that he does “not want any of the students at the Lauder Institute, the best and brightest at your university, to be taught by any of the instructors who were involved or supported this event.”

He added: “We know who they are and what they did.”

Prior to the festival, Lauder traveled to Philadelphia to make the case to Magill in person for canceling it. His two follow-up phone calls also failed to persuade the university president.

Forbes estimates that Lauder is currently worth $4.6 billion.

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